There’s nothing worse than laboring over a Thanksgiving turkey for hours, only for it to emerge from the oven dry. Luckily, our Culinary Director-at-Large, Justin Chapple, has a Mad Genius Tip that will get you juicy meat every. single. time. The secret? Mayonnaise.
It may sound unusual, but when you cover your turkey with mayonnaise, it bastes it during the roasting process, keeping the meat moist and tender. And before you ask, no, it doesn’t make the turkey taste like mayonnaise, either, so mayonnaise-haters need not worry. With this hack, you’ll win Thanksgiving—so grab a jar and get cooking. Find Justin’s key tips for preparing the turkey below and get the recipe here.
Make the chipotle mayonnaise
You didn’t think we’d ask you to just put straight mayo on this turkey, did you? Justin chops up one tablespoon of fresh thyme and adds it to a mixing bowl, along with one cup of mayonnaise and lemon zest—zest the whole lemon directly into the bowl, and then quarter it and save the pieces for later. After that, he grates in three garlic cloves. These are all basic holiday flavors, he notes—the real kick comes from the minced chipotle chiles, which he adds next, mixing everything together.
Loosen the skin
You want to put the mayo on the outside and inside of the turkey so it gets extra juicy. To prep it, Justin carefully slides his fingers between the skin and the turkey breast to loosen it—then, he repeats with the thighs. Although it looks awful, he says, this step is crucial and helps get the mayonnaise under the skin.
Fold the wing tips …
Justin recommends folding the wing tips back, so that you can get as much heat around the turkey as possible.
… and start slathering on that mayo
Take a teaspoon, scoop up some mayo, and put it under the skin right above the breast. With a twist, scoop it off the spoon so it stays under the skin, and then use your fingers (on top of the skin) to help spread it out. Do the same thing on the other side, and spread some mayo on the inside of the bird as well. Then, take the remaining mayo and spread it all over the outside, coating the turkey.
After the turkey is all mayo’d up, Justin seasons it all over with flaky sea salt and black pepper. You want to season the meat as evenly as possible, so he recommends using your other hand and placing it at an angle to help bounce the salt and pepper on hard-to-reach places.
Then, take the lemon quarters and a whole head of garlic—cut in half cross-wise—and stuff them right into the turkey. After that, tie the legs together with twine. This helps the meat to cook more evenly.
Take the seasoned turkey and transfer it to a large roasting pan with a rack in it. Roast it in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, and then, drop the temperature down to 350 degrees and cook the turkey for about another hour and 15 minutes.
Keep aluminum foil handy
If the turkey browns too quickly, don’t panic—just grab aluminum foil and tent it over the top.
Let it sit
The turkey is ready to come out of the oven once a thermometer inserted in the inner thigh reaches 165 degrees, Justin says. Then, let it rest for 30 minutes. The end result should be golden and crispy.
Get it on a platter
Because the meat is flavored with chipotle and thyme, Justin garnishes the turkey with hot peppers, lemon thyme, and some garlic heads on the platter for a gorgeous table-ready presentation. Then, all that’s left to do is carve and enjoy.